Group uses grant for drug treatment center
WHEELING — A $3-million grant from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources will allow a local faith-based group to transform the former Paul VI Pastoral Center into a long-term care center for approximately 100 women suffering from drug addiction.
Sharon Travis, president of Heart2Heart/Living Free Ohio Valley Inc., said her group hopes to use the facility to expand its work to combat the opioid epidemic and other drug problems.
“Long-term care is what is missing,” she said. “You need long-term oversight to be healed.”
According to its website, the 35-room center opened on about 150 acres just north of Wheeling in 1981. Tim Bishop, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, said church officials closed the center a few years ago due to declining use.
“The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is pleased to be able to offer the property to Living Free Ohio Valley,” Bishop said. “We continue to keep their ministry, and indeed all those suffering from and battling through addiction throughout the Mountain State, in our prayers.”
This week, West Virginia DHHR officials confirmed plans to distribute almost $21 million for nine anti-substance abuse programs throughout the state. The Living Free facility is one of the recipients.
“As West Virginia fights this battle against addiction, these projects will allow for continued expansion of treatment beds and improved resources across the state,” DHHR Secretary Bill J. Crouch said.
Bishop and Travis confirmed the property transfer agreement is being finalized, although they declined to disclose the sale price. However, Travis said the $3 million grant will go to purchase and establish the new drug treatment center.
The property is located along Stone Shannon Road, near the border between Ohio and Brooke counties. Bishop said the diocese formerly held retreats and conferences at the facility, but ultimately decided it was no longer needed.
Addressing the Addiction
The epidemic of addiction to opioids and other drugs in West Virginia and Ohio is well-documented. Travis said there are multiple treatment centers throughout the Upper Ohio Valley — but few, if any, which offer the long-term care the Living Free Ohio Valley facility plans to offer.
The center could be ready to open some time in 2018, she said.
According to Travis, the center will be open to women who have completed a detox program, although she said preference will go to northern West Virginia residents. She said those entering the center will include mothers of minor children, pregnant women and military veterans.
“Priority will be given to those who have overdosed within the last 30 days, or are active (intravenous drug) users,” Travis said. “Some could spend up to 12 months, or even more, depending on the circumstances.”
Travis said many addicts complete a detox program with the best of intentions, only to fall quickly back into their old habits for lack of consistent support. She also said the economic challenges of transitioning away from the drug culture can be considerable.
“If people come out of detox, they can get a job, but it’s usually minimum wage. They have been making a lot more money selling drugs, and now they can’t pay their bills,” Travis said.
Travis said her center will work with both Medicaid and private insurance companies. Officials will also seek state and federal grants to cover those who may not be able to afford insurance, but also do not qualify for Medicaid.
“We don’t want anyone to fall through the cracks,” Heart2Heart/Living Free Vice President Dale Travis said.
Sharon Travis said she believes a new government provision will allow Medicaid to pay for the continuous care. Crouch agrees.
“We anticipate the additional treatment beds added to be sustained by DHHR’s Medicaid Substance Use Disorder waiver, which will cover the long-term cost of treatment for Medicaid enrollees,” he said.
Although her organization is faith-based, Travis said religion will not be a major focus at the center.
“We all need to come together to fight this terrible problem,” she added.
The DHHR funding is supported by the Ryan Brown Addiction Prevention and Recovery Fund, as part of a comprehensive, statewide plan to combat the opioid epidemic.
The fund is authorized by West Virginia House Bill 2428, which passed during the 2017 regular legislative session. It requires DHHR to identify need and fund additional treatment beds in the state to be operated by the private sector.
These beds are intended to provide substance-use disorder treatment services in existing or newly constructed facilities.
In addition to the Heart2Heart/Living Free center, other recipients throughout West Virginia include: Mountaineer Behavioral Health of Martinsburg — $3 million; St. Joseph Recovery Center of Parkersburg — $3 million; Westbrook Health Services of Parkersburg — $1 million; Valley HealthCare System of Morgantown — $3 million; West Virginia University — $1 million; Marshall University — $2.8 million; WestCare West Virginia of Culloden — $1 million; and Southern West Virginia Treatment Thru Recovery Continuum of Beckley — $3 million.
“We are pleased to support these grantees as they work to address the substance use epidemic on a community level,” Crouch said.